This Porsche 356 Has Not Had Your Typical Restoration
Photography by Petra Sagnak
Story by Thomas Gerwers
This Porsche 356 “Pre-A” is quite often the most controversial entrant at the classic car shows it appears in, and is it hard to see why? As difficult as these images make it to believe, the car began it’s life in quite the usual way, i.e. with paint and a full interior. It wasn’t soon after though that it’s interesting path through life was underway.
An American pilot first purchased the car in 1956 while he was stationed in Germany, where the two remained for a time before his subsequent reassignment to Alaska. Quite the change in scenery, but not a entirely new view, as he was still looking over the dash and out the window of the same Porsche he had while overseas. The less than perfect Alaskan roads certainly accelerated the car’s aging process, and it wasn’t long before it was placed in a barn for indefinite storage. Prior to being tucked away, the 356 was used, fittingly for its locale, in various ice racing events, so purists still reading this should take solace in the fact that it wasn’t subjected to only rutted and semi-paved commuting up in the 49th state.
Some time after being “stored,” Belgian Porsche enthusiast and restorer Mike Tempels came across the little Porsche and decided it was worth exhuming from its frozen still existence. Strange legal gremlins made it such that the car could only be exported back to Europe in pieces, a frustrating but not insurmountable ordeal that involved over a year’s time and a long flatbed journey across barren terrain in order to reach the nearest shipping port in Anchorage.
After the car’s second overseas journey in its lifetime, the restoration was begun in earnest. A truly daunting undertaking. The interior had all but disintegrated, the underpinnings were the definition of rust, the front and rear had sustained damage at some point, and do I even need to mention that drivetrain was in the midst of a nap it didn’t intend to wake from?
Mike gave the engine and the rest of the mechanical pieces a complete overhaul, but touched the body only where it was absolutely necessary, preserving as much as possible of its unpreserved state; the patina isn’t a sign of neglect, it’s a vivid image of the car’s history.
This process of semi-restoration was a family project. Mike’s wife Nicole, daughter Jody and her husband Jeff Gransjean, and his nephew Yannick Schynts all contributed to the 4 months of work necessary to bring the car to its current state. For example, Jodie took care of the seats by using the metal frames of some 1950s truck seats covered with simple leather straps in order to have the inside of the car match up with it’s wildly un-concours exterior.
This unique 356 made its first contemporary appearance at the 2015 edition of Schloss Dyck Classic Days in Germany. Unfortunately this is also where Mike blew the engine. As should be clear by now though, not much can keep this car off the road now, and a new unit was quickly fitted. The text on the rear of the car sums it up pretty well: “A Porsche Never Dies.”